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14 January, 2002

Gaum outlines policy on underage enrolment

The Western Cape Education Minister, Mr André Gaum, has outlined policy on underage enrolment in Grade One in the province in 2002.

In a statement released today (Monday, 14 January, 2002), Mr Gaum provided background on the issue, and described how the policy would be implemented.

The statement reads as follows:

"Admission to school of children who turn six this year: an important message from the Minister of Education in the Western Cape

"The background

"1. In 1999 Minister Kader Asmal, National Minister of Education, made it national policy that public schools were not allowed to enrol under-age children (children who do not reach the age of seven during Grade 1). The extension of this policy to private schools was later challenged in court, and last year the ruling of the court went against it.

"2. Following this verdict, Minister Asmal, announced on December 11th last year that while national admission-age policy is being revised in 2002, each province's Head of Education may allow under-age children to be admitted to Grade 1 if he or she judges these children to be ready for school and if there are vacancies at schools available for them.

"What this means for you

"3. This means that if you have a child who was born in 1996, and wish to enrol this child in Grade 1 for the coming school year, you have at least a chance of being able to do so.

"4. What you need to do is to contact your nearest school's principal as soon as he or she is back at school, collect an application form, and arrange for your child to visit the school so that his or her school-readiness can be assessed.

"5. To help assess a child's degree of school-readiness, the Western Cape Education Department has designed a detailed check-list, which the school's teaching staff will fill in for each under-age applicant. The Department will use this evaluation, which will be verified by a multi-functional task team at district level, to determine whether the principal may admit your child.

"6. If the Department's decision is 'Yes', the school principal will admit your child as a learner, but only if there is space for him or her in the Grade 1 class. If there is not this space, you may apply for admission to another school. (Please note that principals MUST grant place first to children of compulsory school-going age, and only after such children have all been accommodated may they admit under-age learners. If two under-age learners are competing for the same place, preference must be given to the older of them.)

"7. If the Department's decision is 'No', you may appeal against it to the provincial Minister of Education, i.e. myself. In support of this appeal you must be able to show that it would be detrimental to your child's educational growth if he or she had to wait another year before starting Grade 1. A minimum requirement will be an evaluation report to this effect by a registered educational psychologist.

"A special appeal to parents and guardians

"Our primary schools' principals and teachers are under heavy pressure at the start of every school year, and this interim arrangement is going to place a major extra burden on them, since most schools had already finished their regular enrolment for 2002 by the time these new arrangements were announced on 11 December.

"I therefore appeal earnestly to you not to flood our already under-capacitated schools with applications, nor to try to enrol your child unless you have genuine and substantive grounds for believing that he or she is ready to enter Grade 1, and to accept it with a good grace if despite this the WCED judges your child to be not ready yet. I also urge you to bear in mind that even if the Department agrees with your judgement, it may simply not be possible to accommodate your under-age child as well as all those children who are of compulsory school-going age and who have the first claim on the school space that is available. Let us protect the quality education we are striving to provide for our children of compulsory school-going age.

"With best wishes,

"Yours sincerely
"André Gaum
"Minister of Education, Western Cape"

Issued by:
The Communications Directorate
Western Cape Education Department
Private Bag X9114
Cape Town 8000
Tel: (021) 467-2531
Fax: (021) 467-2363
Email: pattwell@pawc.wcape.gov.za
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